|Amber Ainsworth/The Michigan Journal|
After a thriller of a victory last week against Minnesota, the Wolverines are back in town to face the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Here is the weekly breakdown and prediction.
The Wolverine offense looked like it would be in trouble after quarterback Jake Rudock went down with an upper body injury last week, but redshirt freshman Wilton Speight took over, and led the Wolverines down the field for a go-ahead touchdown which stood as the game winner, going 3/3 for 29 yards on the drive. All signs point to Rudock for this week’s matchup against the Scarlet Knights, it wouldn’t surprise me to see more Speight than Rudock. I do believe Rudock will start, but I don’t expect to see him much of the second half. Michigan will not need to pass the ball much at all in this game, even early. The running game should ultimately lead the team on each drive more than it already has been this season. De’Veon Smith per usual should run around, over, and through the Rutgers defense for most of the day, and Drake Johnson spelling Smith from time to time will add the second dynamic to the Wolverines offense. Majority of the Wolverine pass plays will like be of the third down variety, and will involve the tight ends more than the wide receivers. Michigan needs to get Jake Butt more involved, as the second and third options at tight end have been Rudocks targets for the past few weeks. Nonetheless, the offense will have no problem controlling the time of possession in this one, and the entire game. Smith will go over 100 yards, and Johnson will rush for around 70. Jabrill Peppers will show up more on offense, scoring some sort of touchdown.
Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano has been unimpressive this season, throwing for 1,536 yards, and 12 touchdown, but has added eight interceptions. However, the Scarlet Knights do post two running backs who have over 500 yards rushing on the season. It will be tough to get either one of those going, let alone both against the Michigan defense. Rutgers can’t necessarily rely heavily on the pass game either, with star wide receiver Deonte Carroo questionable to play against the Wolverines. Last week Minnesota threw all over the Wolverines, but at home they are a different team, and will not allow that to happen twice, let alone two weeks in a row. It will be interesting to see how the Rutgers offense handles the Wolverines defense, especially if they are without a playmaker.
The Wolverine defense had a rough game last week. Wolverine defensive backs coach Mike Zordich said his guys “laid an egg” last week against the Gophers. I guarantee that doesn’t happen again, especially not to a lowly Rutgers team. The Wolverines will be at home, where they play a complete different ball game as opposed to the on the road. The will force Laviano to make bad passes, and force passes into tight spaces, some he completes, and some he simply regrets. The Wolverines will intercept Laviano twice, and sack him three times in route to another great defensive game.
Rutgers main focus defensively will obviously be to stop the run. The Scarlet Knights are allowing 155 rushing yards per game, and 299 passing yards. The Wolverines likely won’t look to throw the ball around much, so I expect Rutgers to put an extra guy in the box, and try to force Michigan’s hand into throwing the ball with a potentially banged up quarterback. I don’t think Rutgers will be able to stop the run enough to force Michigan into passing the ball much, and if they do the Wolverines are more than capable of taking advantage of the mediocre Rutgers secondary. It might be a long day for the Scarlet Knights defense.
Aside from one play on special teams a few weeks ago, the Wolverines special teams unit has been stellar. This is finally the week the Wolverines block a punt, it’s been close, oh so close each week. We will FINALLY see a blocked punt this week against Rutgers
Final Prediction: Michigan 27, Rutgers 6.